Reaction to the Documentary Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution

The word reaction appears in bold black letters on a white background with a black border.

Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution is a documentary that tells the story of a group of young people with disabilities as they joined the fight for disability rights in the United States in the early 1970s.

Camp Janed

Camp Janed was a camp for people with disabilities located in New York. The camp was heavily influenced by the hippie movement in the early 1970s. The documentary begins with a look into the camp. The camp included everyone from those with cerebral palsy to blindness to those with intellectual disabilities to quadriplegics along with a range of other visible and invisible disabilities. The campers had minimal supervision but were provided with the assistance they needed to complete daily living tasks.

I loved seeing this camp and how everyone was free to be themselves and did not have to face the shame they faced back home and at school and in society in general. Discrimination and misconceptions regarding people with disabilities were much worse than they are today. I can relate to them because I felt this same feeling of community when I attended a center for the visually impaired and I could relate to everyone because before then I had been the only one with a disability in my classes for the most part. I really loved the aspect of community and belonging and inclusion in that camp.

The fight for disability rights

People with disabilities faced many barriers which still are present today but were much worse during the 1970s. There was no accessible public transportation and buildings were not accessible and there were no sign language interpreters for the deaf or readers available for the blind. People with severe intellectual disabilities were often placed in institutions where they were mistreated, one example was the Willowbrook scandal.

This was very hard for me to learn about and helped me to further appreciate the hardships people with disabilities faced. 

During this time the organization Disabled in Action was started by Judy Heumann and others from Long Island University, the organization was founded in 1970. Eventually complaints reached congress and they finally had to act.

The Rehabilitation Act was passed by congress in 1972 but president Nixon refused to sign it into law. Section 504 of the act would in theory prevent any program receiving federal funds from discriminating against people with disabilities and public transportation would have to be made accessible. The act was eventually signed into law by president Nixon in 1973 but unfortunately the law was not enforced and nothing changed for people with disabilities.

It really impacted me when I learned about the demonstrations Judy organized in order to bring attention to the struggles faced by people with disabilities and how this organization led the way in the fight for disability rights in the United States. 

One demonstration that impacted me the most was the 504 San Francisco Sit-in. A group of over 150 people with disabilities entered a federal building in San Francisco that housed the health and education and welfare department and demanded that the regulations in section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act be implemented and fully enforced.

It was impactful to see this last for 25 days in April of 1977 and to see the challenges the demonstrators faced. This made me appreciate the rights I have today as someone with a disability because many suffered a lot to get to where we are now. The demonstrations grew beyond San Francisco to other states.  The regulations stated in section 504 were eventually implemented and enforced. This paved the way for the Americans with Disabilities Act which was signed into law in 1990 and grants even greater protection for people with disabilities.

Some extra thoughts

I am thankful that I came across this documentary because I learned so much about the fight for disability rights. It encouraged me to see many outside of the disability community come along on the fight for disability rights. 

We still have a long way to go in the fight for disability rights, yes many things have become more accessible but there is still more change to be done. One aspect that needs more attention is web accessibility. There are still many websites that are not fully accessible. Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires any websites or digital documents to be made fully accessible. There is still more work to be done to make sure that private businesses make their websites accessible to all.

The thing that must change the most is society’s overall attitude regarding people with disabilities.

I write these kinds of blog posts to bring more awareness about disabilities and to help break down the misconceptions that still exist about people with disabilities. People with disabilities are strong and have value and should be respected for their differences and should be given a chance to contribute to society.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s